Dvorák: Cypresses

COMPOSERS: Antonín Dvorák
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák: Cypresses
WORKS: Cypresses; String Quartet No. 13 in G, Op. 106
PERFORMER: Cypress String Quartet


Dvovák composed the 18 songs entitled Cypresses in July 1865 when, according to his own account, he was a young man very much in love. While the original song cycle was problematic in terms of declamation and the occasionally crude piano accompaniment, its abundant lyrical qualities proved too good to waste and Dvovák turned to them in two operas, later song collections, and in 1887 a version of 12 of them for string quartet. Notwithstanding the odd rough edge, the eponymous Cypress Quartet play these arrangements with exquisite shading and a fine sense of nuance.

Their performance of Dvovák’s last and greatest quartet is rather less satisfactory. Each movement begins very promisingly, but too often Dvovák’s line of development is lost. In the slow movement, the performers don’t really capture the movement’s almost tumultuous passion, notably in its almost orchestral climax, a pity where there is so much enjoyable detail in their playing, not least in the scherzo and finale, both of which have thrilling impetus as well as some beautiful shaping of the more lyrical material. In a competitive field, this performance of Op. 106 has to yield to the near-perfection of the Haas Quartet.


Jan Smaczny